Proteins are usually designed through evolutionary principles - those that succeed survive, and those that don't, don't.
- Traditionally we have taken materials and used them to design new materials.
- Professor Buehler wants to map materials to sounds, use those sounds to design new sounds, and map those new sounds back to materials.
Vibrations and waves are universal properties.
- The wave particle duality of quantum mechanics describes the behavior of quantum-scale objects.
- The superposition of acoustic waves can generate any possible sound.
- Even spiders use vibrations as sensory feedback mechanisms to understand what they’ve built, what they need to build, and to catch prey.
Both sound and materials can be thought of as being built in a hierarchy.
- A collection of waves can create any note. These sounds can be collected in chords, which can then be used to create melodies, which can then be used to create entire musical compositions.
- Proteins can be built out of elementary units of amino acids, which are collected into secondary structures, which self-organize into tertiary structures of alpha helices and beta sheets, from which the structure of entire proteins emerges.
- Both of these hierarchical structures have recurring patterns that are found in many different contexts and produce consistent effects.
Using modern neural networks, computers can learn to produce new iterations of these hierarchical structures.
- Professor Buehler’s lab went through all of the hundreds of thousands of known proteins and computed their characteristic vibrations using quantum mechanical simulations.
- They found that every protein has a unique sound spectrum.
- This means that they can not only go from proteins to sounds, but also from sounds to proteins.